“When you see the suffering in the world, who do you think is to blame?
(She is looking at me expectantly across the bistro table.)
“Do you ever think God’s unfair?”
(Long, pregnant pause.)
“Are you ever skeptical about how God has chosen to manage the world?”
(Crickets are chirping, chirping…)
“Do you ever wonder about God’s motives, or seriously question his methods?”
And I thought we were just going to grab coffee!
“What is God about, Kim? Is this all some kind of game? What does he want from me, when it comes right down to it?”
(You can go ahead and insert a mental photo of me staring hard into the bottom of a Starbucks cup here…)
Thankfully, I’ve been reading Genesis. There are loads of wild and woolly stories in the book of Genesis; the kind that make you go “…hmmm…” and not always in a good way. To be honest, some of the stories can be rather unsettling, but I’ve noticed one possible theme of Genesis could certainly be: Duh! God is not like us at all, thank God!
Beginning with the whole “Let there be light!” scenario, we discover quickly that God is not anything like us. The big tip-off? He can create life from scratch and coordinate the whole cosmos. I can’t properly coordinate my lights and darks in the laundry room.
And as the compelling drama of God and his chosen people continues to unfold, we see again that God is really, really not like us. He’s not what we expect or can wrap our minds around. In fact, he’s not someone we are even the slightest bit comfortable dealing with. His ways are not ours, neither are his thoughts, or his means.
But Genesis shows repeatedly that God is faithful and man is so fickle. God is righteous and we are anxious schemers. God sees straight into the heart – clear as day – and we can’t see past the end of our nose. God is always for us and we are always for, well, ourselves.
For example, the story of Cain and Able (Genesis 4) comes to mind.
God is speaking with Cain, the first-born son of Adam and Eve. Cain is furious, feeling slighted by God. Why? He’s bitter over the fact that God appears to be playing favorites, that God has openly preferred his younger brother’s gift to his own. “God’s not fair! How could He?” we hear him sulk. We’ve all felt like Cain, I think. I know I have.
“Why is your face downcast?” God says to Cain
It speaks so much of God’s kindness in the way he interacts with Cain. He doesn’t lecture. He doesn’t say, “I’m so disappointed in you, son, you really should know better.” Instead, he speaks like a father. You can almost feel God’s hand on Cain’s shoulder as he gives him the chance to examine his own heart, to think about it honestly, to see his actions, and to ask for a do-over (repent).
“Why is your face downcast, Cain? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?” Duh! God gently states out loud what Cain absolutely already knows to be true: this Jehovah God will never reject any man who earnestly seeks him.
The God of Genesis is an extravagantly generous God, and Cain knows this. He’s never stingy, or passive-aggressive, or petty, or mean. He is lavish in his love and care for his children, regardless of how poorly or infrequently or unbelievably they respond to that love.
But the God who knits babies in their mother’s womb can also see into the human heart, and is not scared to call a spade a spade. Cain is finding this out the hard way.
“But, if you don’t do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it.” God continues.
He is warning Cain (and us) that it is sin that is crouching, waiting, and ready to pounce. God himself describes this sin as something that prowls and wants to devour us. Sin desires to have us. We need to get this straight: God is not the one crouching at the door, lying in wait, ready to pounce. It is sin.
Saints, it is doing right to offer your whole heart, and mind, and soul back to God.
This is what Able (Cain’s brother) did, and God was pleased with his offering.
It is doing wrong to offer a partial heart to God – call it a gift – and then blame God when he calls your bluff.
This was Cain’s choice. Is God at fault for not being pleased?
Cain blamed God for being God, and then went out and murdered his brother.
It all started in his heart, where only God could see.
What will we do?
Friends, God has loved you like crazy since before he said “Let there be light.” Offer your whole self back to him and leave no room for sin to slither in the door. If sin has already mastered you, turn yourself back to the God who loves you, do right, and ask for a do-over (A word the Bible uses for this is “repent”.)
God sees into your heart, and loves you still.
He is full of mercy that never sours or dims.
There is nothing that can separate you from him, ever.
God is not like us at all, great thanks be to Himself!
Peace to you and yours, because we are loved eternally.